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Children, Chores, and Laundry

You may be more worried about getting the chocolate stain out of Junior’s best shirt, but in reality, the items that are closest to our bodies -- underwear, pajamas, and sheets -- are often the ones that harbor the most germs. Make sure these items are washed in the hottest water the fabric will tolerate, and use bleach.

Make chores a game for younger kids. Start the “matching game” to involve them in laundry folding. Challenge them to match socks, pajama sets, and two-piece outfits as you sort. As you strip the beds, let them built a fort or two with the sheets. Then they can help you “destroy” the fort and load the washer.

Create some fun competition for older kids. Set the timer and see who can fold the most underpants, pillowcases, socks, shirts, or shorts in five minutes. (Points taken off for a sloppy job.) The winner gets to choose dinner that night, or where to go on the next family outing.

Children’s Chores in the Bedrooms and Living Room

Bedrooms and living rooms tend to be filled with lots of fabrics -- drapes, linens, upholstered furniture -- that can catch dust and other allergens. So although plastic toys on the floor might be unsightly, the bigger hygiene hazard is the dust mites on the carpet, the lampshades, in bookshelves, and in the curtains.

Vacuum side by side. Let your young child use the hand-vac as you use the bigger vacuum. As your child gets older, they’ll take pride in being put in charge of the big vacuum themselves. Make a big deal of it. And praise their work. Don’t criticize the few dust bunnies they left behind, as long as you see them trying.

Dust for an allergy-free home. Use dusters with extendable handles to let your child dust behind the bed or in high corners of bedrooms, where dust bunnies and cobwebs tend to collect. Consider micro fiber dust cloths, which pick up more dust. Have your child dust areas that don’t have breakable vases or lamps. Dusting the bookcase is a good chore for a child. You dust in the same room around the ceramic or glass items on tables.

Don’t say, “clean your room.” Instead, assign specific chores. “Please pick up all the toys that are on the floor and put them away.” Make sure they have an “away” -- small plastic bins, clearly labeled (crayons, Barbies, action figures, cars) can keep a kid’s closet or toy shelves from chaos.

“If you have to follow up and clean up a little after them, don’t let them see you do it,” says Wendy Young, a Michigan social worker and children’s counselor. “It’s the fact that they’re contributing that’s important, not that they do it just as well as you would.”

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